They are planning to launch a stir if they are forced by the government.
Hyderabad: The Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led Andhra Pradesh government is making hectic efforts to shift the state secretariat to new capital Visakhapatnam from 20 January, but sections of its employees are resisting the proposal. Around 3,000 employees working in the secretariat, as well as other heads of departments working now from Amaravati, are planning to launch a stir, if they are forced by the government.
Routine government administration is going to be affected as Chief Minister Jagan is keen on beginning the process of shifting the executive capital from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam as early as possible, probably from 20 January, after Sankranti festival holidays. Sources said that the new secretariat will be located at Millennium Towers in Visakhapatnam for the time being. The government is planning to shift at least some important sections of key departments like general administration, home and agriculture etc and employees and files would be transported to the new capital in a phased manner. This entire process is going to be arduous and prolonged as it requires huge logistics to shift the entire secretariat from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam, around 400 km away.
Some of the associations and unions of secretariat staff have called for emergency meetings in the last few days and decided to resist and protest the unilateral move to shift the capital from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam. A clear schedule of protests is not yet planned, but the office-bearers of these unions told this newspaper that they would definitely resist the process of quick shifting.
“We haven’t even come out of the traumatic experience of shifting from Hyderabad to Vijayawada or Amaravati which happened only two to three years ago. It took us a great deal of effort to relocate our families, including schooling and college going children from Telangana to Andhra. Now, we cannot take this fresh blow to our families to go all the way to Visakhapatnam in a huff,” said an office-bearer on the condition of anonymity.
When then Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu insisted that the secretariat and other heads of department office staff should shift from Hyderabad to Amaravati four years ago, the employees opposed it and announced a strike plan. The employees’ contention was that when the AP Bifurcation Act allowed Andhra to retain Hyderabad as the common capital for both the states, there was no need to shift before that.
However, the Chandrababu Naidu government insisted on the total shift of the secretariat and other offices by 2016-17 and offered several sops to the staff, including a five-day week and increase of retirement age from 58 to 60 etc. Special trains were arranged for the government employees from Hyderabad to Vijayawada and Guntur, covering a distance of 270 to 300 km. But, now it is just impossible to commute daily between Amaravati and Visakhapatnam as the distance was longer, around 400 km, the employee union office-bearer pointed out. A majority of AP employees are still living in Hyderabad as their families, including children and old parents, are there. They could go from Amaravati to Hyderabad on weekends, but it may be difficult to commute from Visakhapatnam.
However, the government’s argument is different. Sources in the CM’s office said that it would be easier for the staff to relocate to Visakhapatnam as the port offers enough housing and educational institutions for their children. “Compared to Amaravati, which is set up in agricultural fields, at least 20 km away from Vijayawada and Guntur, Visakhapatnam offers quality lifestyle,” an IAS officer in the AP CMO said.
The exact timeframe for shifting the secretariat would be announced by the high-powered committee of ministers and senior officials by the end of next week. The committee held its second meeting on Friday and is expected to meet again sometime next week. Then the Cabinet will take a final decision on the shifting schedule and the same would be announced in the Assembly too.
Even as the Jagan government is busy preparing to shift the capital from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam, the Opposition TDP has intensified the agitation to stop the process. TDP president Chandrababu Naidu has begun touring adjoining areas of Amaravati mobilising public support to the agitation of farmers who had given their lands to the capital.
Naidu’s son and TDP MLC Nara Lokesh was arrested by the police on Friday as he tried to enter Amaravati limits to lead a protest demonstration of farmers. Some other TDP leaders, too, were taken into custody on the ground that they had tried to disturb the public order. Naidu held a rally collecting donations from public for his agitation. On the other hand, ruling YSR Congress, too, launched a counter-agitation in Visakhapatnam and its surrounding areas demanding that the Port City be made the executive capital of Andhra Pradesh. Indications are there that people from three north-coastal districts—Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam—would be mobilised for this demand.